When I was a kid I remember two toys that were on the market; one of which I had and the other that I wanted.
The one I wanted was a small truck and large vinyl sheet. You could draw a line on the sheet with the grease pencil that it came with (This must have been before the invention of the dry-erase marker) and the truck would follow the line around the board. There were two little electric eyes that kept the truck on the right path. If the right eye saw black it would turn the wheel slightly to the right to compensate, and if the left saw black I’d follow suit. The toy was slow and methodical and there were a few little things that took some getting used to, like the fact that it had a hard time with really sharp corners and intersecting lines, but it eventually got where you wanted it to go. I never had one of these but a friend did and I loved to play with it. I enjoyed trying to figure out what I need to do to make it change its path and take the correct course.
The other toy was pretty much the polar opposite of this little truck. It was a wind up little clown car that went relatively fast. It went on a rather straight line to start. Out of each side of the car were a little L shaped bars that rotated at slightly different speeds from each other. At the bottom of their rotation the bar would hit the ground and lift the wheels on that side off the ground for a second causing the car to pivot in that direction until the bar could no longer touch the ground. The frantic display of chaos that ensued was fun for a little bit but the novelty quickly work off. This thing would bang into walls, furniture and anything else until the winder expired.
The first car was slow and methodical and constantly checked its progress to make sure it was on track. The second had no method or direction. It just bounced around until it ran out of steam.
For good and for bad, I see many similarities in my children’s’ behaviors and these two cars. I concede that there are time when it’s just fun to run around and act crazy for a little while like the second toy. But ultimately I’d like the kids to take the path of the first toy. Have a goal and keep working towards it. If you get out of line, that’s no problem. I’ll help you get back where you need to be and then you can follow the line and keep moving forward.
The really problem comes when they don’t seem to even have the capacity to look for and follow the line. They just run around purposelessly no matter if they are on the line or not. It’s as if I took the little chaos car and placed it on the grease pencil line and expected it to follow along. I find my self getting increasingly frustrated. I keep picking up the little toy and expecting it to follow the path and it consistently just runs of behaves by a complete different set of logic as if the line and the path underneath don’t even exist.
If there were no underlying meaning behind this little story it would be easy to just give up and realize that the car is never going to see the line and quit trying. The reality of my situation is that I don’t have that option. I’m left with few other options except to pull things back to the right path and them let them go hoping that this time they’ll finally learn that they need to follow the path laid out.